27 October 2016
Santa Marta: Home Secretary announces £14m funding to tackle modern slavery
The Home Office estimates there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK
Cardinal Vincent Nichols today said the scourge of human slavery is slowly emerging from the shadows as the Home Secretary joined him at a Vatican meeting to announce £14 million to tackle people trafficking.
Amber Rudd announced the funds during her speech at a gathering this afternoon of the Santa Marta Group, an anti-trafficking body of police chiefs and Church leaders set up in 2014 at Francis’ residence, the Casa Santa Marta.
In a statement the Home Office said that £11 million will be designated to combat the scourge of slavery in countries where victims are trafficked into the UK while an extra £3 million will be for preventing child trafficking within Britain and overseas.
Police chiefs and Church leaders, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, met with Pope Francis to update him on their work, a project which is close to the Pope's heart after he helped rescue a women out of slavery 20 years ago in Argentina.
Later, at a Vatican press conference, the cardinal sat alongside two people who had been trafficked and stressed that the problem is becoming more visible. “Human slavery and trafficking are not as hidden as they used to be,” he explained. “Voices that were once completely hidden are being heard."
One of those next to him was former Watford footballer Alhassan "Al" Bangura, who was trafficked from Sierra Leone; he explained his story in a written testimony. “I was taken to Paris on the promise that I would play for a European football team. From there though I was taken to London,” he wrote. “It quickly became clear that something wasn’t right. I was taken to a hotel and left there, alone. Very soon, older men began to turn up and tried to get close to, then touch and then rape me. Scared and afraid I didn’t know what was happening, couldn’t speak English and had no one to turn to for help. I felt trapped. However, against all odds, and I still don’t know how, I managed to escape."
Cardinal Nichols said the sheer scale of human trafficking was the biggest difficulty facing the Santa Marta Group pointing out that slavery was worth around 6 billion US dollars a year. “We need to exercise leadership more robustly,” he said. “Neither the police or the Church are democracies so those in leadership need to show it.”
He stressed the necessity of “mechanisms to share information more quickly” and explained that Catholic parishes offer a valuable network on the ground to help battle the problem.
The Cardinal added that the new Government money would be focussed on the work of police and state agencies rather than being handed to Church groups, which he said should generate their own resources. He pointed out that thanks to one donor, the Santa Marta Group would soon develop a professional team to further its work.
The £14 million announced today comes from a £33.5 million pot of overseas aid funding which the Prime Minister Theresa May has ring fenced for anti-slavery initiatives.
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